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The Educator: In Lebanon, a local push brings the classroom to out-of-school refugees

Diego Ibarra/TNH

Maher Hamdan had to abandon his education when he became a refugee. Now he’s trying to make sure that younger Syrian refugees in Lebanon don’t have to do the same.

There are nearly 500,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon, but fewer than half receive a formal education. High costs, long distances, and language difficulties keep many children out of school.

Hamdan volunteers with Salam Lebanese Association for Development and Communication in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. He is a teacher on a “school bus” that travels to distant unofficial camps to reach Syrian refugee children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend class.

“As Syrian youth, one of the most common challenges we face is finding a job,” Hamdan says. “The second is resuming our education in Lebanon.”

The New Humanitarian’s video series, “Faces on the front lines of local aid”, examines the work of local aid groups around the world. The latest video, “The Educator”, looks at how Hamdan and Salam LADC are trying to bring the classroom to Lebanon’s out-of-school refugee kids.

Hamdan fled Syria – and his university studies in Arabic literature – in 2012. He settled across the border in the Bekaa Valley, where he is one of more than 340,000 Syrian refugees.

With such large refugee numbers – the valley’s Lebanese population is roughly 540,000 – local organisations like Salam LADC believe it’s imperative to include the surrounding communities in helping refugees. At the same time, local groups say the overall aid response has often neglected the needs of teenaged refugees, especially as the crisis drags on.

This local push for refugee education has helped Hasan al-Omar. Conflict stopped the 13-year-old from attending school in Syria, and cost and distance prevented him from enrolling when his family came to Lebanon three years ago.

But thanks to the school bus – and the teacher on board, Hamdan – al-Omar can continue his studies amid the crisis. “Education is the most important guarantee for my future,” he says.

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